Defense wins championships! Broncos = AFC Champs

Posted at 1:02 PM, Jan 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-24 22:01:10-05

Peyton Manning is headed to the Super Bowl for what possibly is the last time in his career -- thanks to a stellar Denver Broncos defense that held off a surging New England Patriots in the last minutes of the AFC Championship game.

Final score -- Denver Broncos 20, New England Patriots 18.

Broncos Cornerback Bradley Roby saved the game by picking off Tom Brady's pass on a 2-point try with 12 seconds left to preserve the Broncos 20-18 lead.

Denver (14-4) will face the Carolina Panthers for the title on Feb. 7.

New England had to go for 2 after Brady's 4-yard touchdown to Rob Gronkowski because Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point in the first quarter, snapping a string of 523 straight makes.

Manning threw two touchdowns but the 39-year-old QB's best play may have very well been his 12-yard scramble on third down in the third quarter — his longest playoff run since he was a rookie.

Below is the game recap.


The New England Patriots won the coin toss and elected to receive.

"Patriots drive stalls, Derek Wolfe just introduced himself to Tom Brady," Denver7 Sports Reporter Arran Andersen said. 

"Wolfe HATES the Patriots.. here comes Peyton," said Denver7 Sports Anchor Lionel Bienvenu.

Manning's pass to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was complete for an 11-yard gain. Manning then completed a 13-yard pass to wide receiver Jordan Norwood.

The next play was a hand-off to running back C.J. Anderson, for a gain of 2 yards. That was followed by another hand off to Anderson for another 2 yards.

Pass interference was called on Patriots' Logan Ryan. That was a 14-yard penalty and gave the Broncos the first down.

Manning's next pass was complete to Andre Caldwell.

Manning threw a  21-yard pass to tight end Owen Daniels for the touchdown. Daniels, a part-time meteorologist, was wide open for the catch, giving the Broncos a 6-0 lead over the Patriots midway through the first quarter.

Manning took advantage of a blown assignment by the Patriots to find Daniels, who waltzed into the end zone.

Manning had a nifty move earlier in the drive, when he escaped outside on a bootleg play. He looked more like a 29-year-old than a 39-year-old who's been dealing with foot injuries.

It was just Manning's second TD pass at home this season. Both have been to Daniels.

Kicker Brandon McManus made the field goal, making the score 7-0 with 7:32 left in the first quarter.

"Peyton went 4-of-6 for 60 yards on 1st drive. TD pass. Passer rating 138.9," Bienvenu tweeted.

After an unsuccessful drive by Tom Brady and the Patriots, the Broncos took possession with 6:40 left in the first quarter.

The Broncos failed to make it into the end zone and the Patriots took over. Wolfe sacked Brady with 3:31 left in the first quarter.

Patriots kicker Ryan Allen punted the ball back to the Broncos.

Ronnie Hillman took the hand off for a 2-yard gain.

Patriots' Bryan Stork was called for unnecessary roughness.

Manning threw a swing pass to Hillman that was ruled incomplete, with linebacker Jonathan Freeny picking up the bouncing football. But the Patriots challenged and the call was overturned, giving them the ball on the Denver 22.

"The pass was backwards," the official called. Patriots took possession with 2:23 left in the first quarter.

T.J. Ward was then called for unnecessary roughness.

Brady handed the ball off to running back Steven Jackson for a 1-yard touchdown run. Kicker Stephen Gostowski missed the extra point, making the score 7-6 with 1:49 left in the first quarter. Gostkowski hasn't miss an extra point all season. His field goal attempt was wide right.

The second quarter begins with an interception. It's Tom Brady's fourth career interception in the playoffs, actually, and was caught by Von Miller!

That leads to a second TD for the Broncos as Daniels scores again!  Manning floated a 12-yard pass to Daniels in the corner of the end zone. Manning came into the game with only one TD pass at home. He now has three and it's his 40th career TD pass in the playoffs.

The Broncos now have 14-6 lead in the AFC championship game.

Brady makes an 11-yard scramble on third down and is taken down by Aqib Talib 

Patriots settle for a field goal. Gostkowski hits a 46-yard field goal. Score is 14-9 with 7:02 left in the second quarter.

That was brutal. Broncos forced to punt after two runs and a pass into the 3rd row.

Brady is confusing jerseys and we have more TURNOVERS! Malik Jackson pounded Brady. Darian Stewart picked it off. Broncos are winning the turnover battle and the game.

Brady is bloodied and picking himself up off the turf. The top-ranked defense of the Denver Broncos is applying plenty of pressure.

So far, Brady has thrown two interceptions --  something he hasn't done since Dec. 6 -- and been sacked twice. He's also taken several other big hits. Brady, who has a scrape just below his elbow, has been off target all afternoon. He's 9 for 20 for 87 yards.

Broncos turned the Brady interception into a 4-yard loss. 

McManus was good from 52 yards for a field goal. At halftime, it was 17-9 Broncos. 

The star in this game so far has been Denver's top-ranked defense, which has intercepted Brady twice and sacked him two more times. Manning is 10 of 20 for 128 yards and two TDs.

Denver has the ball to start the second half but ends with a punt.

McManus kicked it into the end zone to start the second half and Brady took a knee.

Brady's pass to Gronkowski was incomplete, broken up by inside linebacker Danny Trevathan.

Brady passed to Gronkowski for 31 yards, then completed a pass to J. Edelman for 6 yards, then hit another short pass to Danny Amedola. Broncos safety Josh Bush broke up Brady's next pass.

Patriots kicker Gostkowski kicked a 38-yard field goal to bring the score within 5 points. Broncos lead 17-12 with 10:26 left in the third quarter.

Manning scrambled 12 yards -- and a first down --  his longest postseason run since Jan. 16, 2000, against Tennessee.

"Peyton Manning's 12-yd rush was the 2nd-longest of his playoff career. He had a 15-yd TD run vs TEN 1/16/00," said Broncos Vice President of Public Relations Patrick Smyth.

Britton Colquitt punted it 38 yards back to the Patriots.

Von Miller sacked Brady, pushing him back 6 yards to the 2-yard line.

"Von got there in 1 second to sack Brady," Andersen tweeted.

At the end of the third quarter, defensive end Derek Wolfe suffered an injury and had to walk off the field. "Wolfe walking off... but shaky... can't lose Wolfie and Stewart," said Bienvenu. 

In the fourth quarter, Miller set a club single-game playoff record with 2.5 sacks. 

Bienvenu reported the AFC Championship game against the Patriots this Sunday was the second largest home crowd in history. 

Broncos placekicker Brandon McManus connected from 31 yards and the Broncos extended their lead to 20-12 over New England with nine minutes left in the game. The Broncos had first-and-goal at the 10, but couldn't punch it in.

TJ Ward remained questionable with an ankle injury. 

Chris Harris Jr., with a huge play, stopped Julian Edelman on a fourth down, giving the ball back to the Broncos with less than six minutes to go. 

The Broncos were three and out and with two minutes left, and the Patriots took possession with two minutes left. 

Brady hit two fourth-down passes on the final drive, a 40-yarder to Rob Gronkowski and a 4-yard TD pass to Gronkowski with 12 seconds to go to pull the Patriots to 20-18. The 2-point conversion pass was intercepted by the Broncos, who then recovered an onside kick to seal the win.

Broncos win 20-18.